O Canada! Part V

I live on a hill. I begin every training ride with a mile of climbing. My favorite ride includes a climb of nearly 2000 vertical feet in 4.5 miles. Long rides usually involve a trip to the Coast and back over the Santa Cruz Mountains; in 50 or 60 miles, I'll climb anywhere from 4500 to 6000 feet, depending upon the route taken.

So, although I'm not a great climber (nor even a very good one) by any stretch of the imagination, I don't scare easily. "Richter Pass" and "Yellow Lake" had been burned into my brain as forces to be reckoned with, but they hardly terrified me. Driving the course on Thursday confirmed this impression, and now, as I begin the first gentle ascent, I'm actually happy and excited to tackle the pass that bears my name. "Let's see how this bad boy compares to Tunitas Creek or Page Mill Road," I exclaim to my homegirl Beth, invoking the names of two of our tougher local climbs.

Mercifully, the rain has ceased for a while, and I soak up the magnificent, ever-expanding view of the Okanagan Valley sloping down on our right. "The first part of Richter isn't so bad," Jason had explained, "because you can actually *see* that you're climbing, you get a sense of progress. You don't get that so much on the later parts of Richter, and you don't get it at all at Yellow Lake." I'm enjoying my sense of progress very much now, despite the scores of cyclists streaming by me. As I said, I'm no climber, but I'm quite content to sit back in my 39x25 and enjoy the view of the Valley, Lake Osoyoos, and the surrounding mountains.

Richter rolls upward in sections. At the top of the first section the photographers are out in force, along with pockets of cheering spectators urging us on with great gusto. There's no need to smile for the cameras---I've had a smile on my face all along. I've even passed a couple of fellows who were slower than I am, amazing! "Piece of cake!" I announce to the folks roadside. "Yeah, you look great! Good job, good job!" they cheer enthusiastically.

The sky begins spitting fitfully once more, and I roll my eyes heavenward. "Oh, come on! Not again. *sigh* Well, at least let me get over Richter before you let loose." I gear up and chug over the slight "flat" approaching the next section of climb. The second ascent is shorter but a little steeper. Drop back down to the 25 and continue spinning along at my snail's pace, cheering those who pass and pull ahead. I pay heed to the command helpfully painted on the road in large letters: "Think CIRCLES." Good idea! Circles, circles, circles, keep it smooth. It's getting a little tough now, though, because in addition to the hill I'm catching a hint of the headwind waiting to greet me full force at the top...

One more flat, one more long, gradual climb. The rain patters a little harder, the wind is picking up. At last I crest the pass and give myself a mental pat on the back. You did it! You conquered Richter! And now that fantastic descent of the backside beckons you onward---Go for it, Clyde! Oh, boy, is this gonna be fun... Woohoooo!

When we drove the course this section struck me as ideal TriBaby Terrain: A long sweeping descent with just enough curve to keep it interesting. I could get it up to 48 or maybe even 50mph with no trouble at all out here, generating enough speed to sail easily over the subsequent roller that follows. I anticipated this with great relish.

Reality, however, unfolds a little differently. I hadn't reckoned on this damned wind (not to mention the rain still spattering in fits and starts). I click rapidly up through the gears and hammer into the big chainring. Revving it up, I stand and stomp on the pedals, head down and throwing the bike from side to side as I put all my considerable weight to work. The speedometer blinks smoothly through the teens to the twenties and into the thirties. I settle back into the saddle and prepare to power into some real speed, my legs churning furiously, heart thumping loudly. Oh, man, this wind! It's awful! Hammer, hammer, hammer....hell, I'm barely making 40 mph. Ugh. Oh well, guess I won't be breaking any speed records here today. OK, just do what you can.

The wind is just as hard on everyone else. I succeed in making up a nice chunk of time in spite of it, passing at least a dozen cyclists in the minute or two it takes to negotiate the descent. I cling desperately to what remains of my speed at the bottom and make it perhaps a third of the way up the long roller that follows before downshifting. Gravity lays its inevitable claim upon me once more and I grind over the roller. At least I got to have a *little* fun there!

Somewhere along here RSTer Mike Gilson catches up to me and exclaims, "Wow, you descend like a demon!" "Well, as you can see, it's the only thing I can really do!" I laugh in reply. I also ran into John Welch as the rollers began, and he said something along the same lines. I always thought I was kind of a wimpy downhiller, to tell you the truth. Ever since that wipeout up on Grizzly Peak when I was road racing at Cal....

So now the Rollers begin. Like most IMCers I've mentally broken the bike into sections, and the Rollers are what comes between Richter Pass and the Cawston out-and-back. I cruise through the Rollers happily enough, the terrain being remarkably similar to my home turf---if it's not a climb or a descent on the Peninsula, it's rollers. I'm perfectly at home in this stuff, thank you very much. What I'm not at home with, however, is the pain in that delicate portion of my anatomy most intimately connected to my bike. Ouch! I take advantage of some of the downhill rollers to, uh, make some manual adjustments, if you will. Three hours into this ride and everything else is really feeling just fine, but my crotch is not happy. I wonder if anyone's ever dropped out of an IM because of unbearable crotch pain on the bike.....

Cranky crotch notwithstanding, I really am doing pretty well. I chug regularly on my Metabolol and Cytomax, and at every aid station I grab some form of food. Stoke the fire, keep the fuel coming in; keep the metabolism happy and everything else will be happy. I'm fortunate to be blessed with an Iron stomach. I find myself thinking about David and his sensitive system, and wonder how he's doing right now. It's got to be tough to have to factor in that additional variable, I muse. Personally, I just gotta keep eating, anything and everything, and I'm fine.

I'm jockeying with basically the same group of cyclists throughout the Rollers in my usual fashion---i.e., I pass everyone on the downhills and flats, they catch and pass me when the road tilts upward. I exchange the occasional pleasantry with one or another. One fellow in a blue jersey just never seems interested in responding. Mmmmm, I guess he's just really serious. Whatever.

The Rollers go by surprisingly quickly. We roll through Keremeos and I make the turn for the Cawston out and back. I've been on the bike for close to 4 hours, but somehow it doesn't seem that long. I realize that the heavy cloud cover has served to substantially mask the passage of time. We have yet to see the sun, so we've had no perception of its movement across the sky. In a way, I find this to be an advantage; the day just doesn't seem so long under these circumstances!

The rain has pretty much let up, but the heavy clouds linger. It isn't particularly cold, so for the most part I have no complaint. Until I hit that infamous stretch of pavement just before the special needs handoff at the turnaround---Ou-u-u-c-c-c-c-ch-ch-ch! Ug-g-g-g-h! What is this, Paris-Roubaix! MAN! That just hurts everything. Standing out of the saddle at least relieves my crotch, but my bladder, already anxious for the porta-potties at the turnaround, does NOT need this additional reminder that it's overdue for an emptying. And I spot at least two people with flats here, great!

Somehow I sail unscathed over the cobbles (or whatever they were), but I do not relish the idea of having to turn around and face them a second time on the way back. Yuck! Well, I reach the turnaround and the special needs bags, and am I happy! The volunteer hands off my bag on the run and I proclaim my thanks with a big grin. Just past the bags is one of those blessed blue boxes, and I make a beeline for one of 'em. Click, click! Outta the pedals, off the bike, and into the box!

I'm in and out in less than a minute, and considerably relieved, I throw myself into the saddle and pedal back toward those awful cobblestones, munching on a turkey-and-mustard sandwich (painstakingly prepared per IronMac's detailed instructions) with gusto. My special needs bag also contained a fresh cold bottle of Metabomax cocktail, and I finish off my lunch with a yummy strawberry Pop Tart. Life is good! E-e-e-ex-ce-e-e-pt f-f-f-o-r-r this-s-s-s damned stretch of road! OUCH.

Continue the race....